Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Eugene Cordero, Toby Kebbell, Tian Jing, Richard Jenkins
Directed By: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Plot: A team of scientists/explorers/military folk embark on an expedition to Skull Island immediately following the end of the Vietnam war. When they get there, they find much more than they bargained for. Giant monsters, and no way out. Is their biggest foe Kong, or is he their newest ally?
What Works: Thank God that didn’t suck. I’d read some reviews, heard from a few friends, and I went in skeptical… but this was entertaining. It’s not an amazing, awards-caliber movie, but it does what it was supposed to do, and I left entertained, and willing to tell others they’ll be entertained also. The most impressive thing about this film are the visual effects. I thought Kong looked fantastic, the island itself looked incredible. This film has an interesting hue to it. Most films choose a blue hue nowadays, which is annoying. I was worried that Jordan Vogt-Roberts was in over his head, but I thought his direction here was commendable. Unlike Gareth Edwards, who destroys everything he touches by sucking the soul out of it, Vogt-Roberts breathes life into Kong. This isn’t a long, drawn out 3 hour epic like Peter Jackson’s retelling. This has almost a Jurassic Park feel to it. Now, let’s talk about the cast. I actually disagree that the characters here are boring. They’re what they’re supposed to be in this type of film. There are actually a TON of characters, and they did a good job trying to give each person some kind of motivation or backstory. There are 13 “main-ish” characters, and the only one I thought was truly underdeveloped and underused was the scientist San (Jing). They truly did nothing with her, and gave her no backstory. While I enjoyed Larson and Hiddleston, I’d say Jackson and Reilly really steal the show. This film gets extra points for being so much better than Godzilla. I’d say based on the polar opposite tones of the Godzilla movie and this, I have no idea how they can possibly exist in the same universe. This was popcorn fun, the other was like a funeral dirge.
What Doesn’t Work: We all know Kong has a special place in his heart for a damsel in distress, yet he and Larson don’t really get that moment. I kinda wanted Kong to have a special moment with Larson, but every time Kong is with Larson, Hiddleston is also there. Also, there was no character development for San, and if we’re being honest, they reused the same character arc for most of the soldiers. Everyone wanted to get back to their family, which normally is OK, but it takes the weight out of one of the soldiers who REALLY REALLY wants to get back to his family. When he dies, we were supposed to care, but I couldn’t help but think of all the other soldiers who wanted to get back to their families. If that had been his unique character arc, his death would have been more impactful. There is one soldier who has nothing to go back to, which actually made him stand out more. Also, I had the misfortune of seeing this in 3D, and there was no point to it. Nothing cool happens in 3D. What a waste. Don’t waste your money on 3D.
Final Word: An enjoyable, action-packed tentpole that sets out to entertain you and succeeds. If you’re just looking for a really good time, Kong’s your man… or ape.
Final Grade: B+